Begun in 1960, the Liberty Fund was established “to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.” Program activities emphasize liberal education in the “Great Books” tradition and open discussion of enduring intellectual issues as the best ways to sustain liberty. The organization does not engage in political action or public policy research.

Headquarters of the Liberty Fund in Carmel, Indiana, ca. 2020
Credit: Shiel Sexton

Liberty Fund was founded by Pierre Frist Goodrich (Sept. 10, 1894-Oct. 25, 1973), son of Indiana Governor (1917-1921) James Putnam Goodrich. Born in Winchester and educated at Wabash College and Harvard Law School, Goodrich moved his law practice to Indianapolis in 1923. His extensive business and ownership interests included Ayrshire Collieries, Indiana Telephone, Peoples Loan and Trust, and City Securities. Goodrich was an active director or trustee in various civic and educational organizations locally and nationally, including the Indiana State Symphony Society, Wabash College, the Great Books Foundation, and the Foundation for Economic Education.

Goodrich left most of his considerable estate to Liberty Fund. Shortly after 1973, Liberty Fund expanded its efforts to reach scholars and professionals. Each year Liberty Fund conducts some 90 small, private, discussion-style conferences throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe. These conferences focus primarily on history, philosophy, law, literature, political thought, and economics. Liberty Fund annually publishes four to six books. They are new scholarly and accessible editions of classic works, including the writings of Adam Smith, Lord Acton, George Washington, and F. A. Hayek.

Pierre Frist Goodrich, founder of the Liberty Fund, ca. 1950
Credit: Liberty Fund, Inc. via Indiana Historical Society

All of these programs focus on the place liberty has had in human affairs, from Classical and Judeo-Christian thought through such rich intellectual periods as the Scottish Enlightenment and the American Founding era. Through its publications of “great books,” the Liberty Fund strives to strengthen the “understanding and appreciation of individual liberty and responsibility.”

The organization has also been influential in Republican politics. In his book, Republican Character: From Nixon To Reagan (2018), historian Donald T. Critchlow identified the Liberty Fund as one of the conservative foundations that made it possible for Ronald Reagan to become U.S. president in 1980.

In 1997, Goodrich’s widow Enid endowed the organization with an $80 million bequest. The gift increased the Liberty Fund’s assets to over $300 million. In 2017, the foundation opened a $22 million headquarters in Carmel.

Revised February 2021
 

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